Saturday, March 5, 2011

Random Campaign Idea of the Day


plus this

equals a whole lot of potential. If you aren't familiar with them they are a lot like this:

Which seems like it would make for a pretty slick campaign. I may have to make some notes. No idea when I would run it but it's worth a bit of thought. System-wise I think Savage Worlds or maybe Icons for lighter mechanics  M&M or Hero if I want to go nuts.

Atomic City - The 1950's

Atomic City was incorporated in 1949, bringing together the docks, the living areas for the workers, and the area around the main roads linking them to the government facility. With the war over, the postwar drop had slowed the economy, but by '49 things were starting to move again and the incorporation set the stage for massive growth and expansion.

The major features of Atomic City at the start of the decade are the port and the reactor and some would say the air force base nearby. There are no monuments, no amusement parks, no shopping malls, no museums. Between the two major centers of activity all that a visitor would see are homes and small businesses serving those homes. The population is about 50,000 people, about a third of whom arrived during the war.

In 1951 Atomic City University is founded. This is the first local institution of higher learning and though it starts small it grows very quickly as it is linked to the facility that gives the city its name.

Giovanni "Johnny" Sorvino came to the city from back east in the 1940's. Originally born and raised in Italy he came to America and fell in with the New York families.  Following a disagreement with his boss he came west, started working on the docks and then started his own family business. By the early 50's he had complete control of the city's criminal underworld, small though it was at the time. Because of this he is a regular target of the city's early heroes, though he manages to outlive most of them. loosely connected to the Sorvinos are the local gangs including the Pharoahs and the Jets.

The local newspaper, The Beacon, began in the late 19th century when the local area was a rural backwater. Run as a family business, it was comfortable and familiar but many of the new arrivals saw it as decidedly small-town.  As the docks ramped up and more and more workers arrived and The Eagle was founded in  1946 by a returning veteran with a more activist and cosmopolitan outlook and competition soon took off with most of the older families favoring the more conservative Beacon while newer citizens and the students of the university favored the Eagle. Throughout the decade the papers dueled for exclusives and scoops in a stiff if cordial rivalry.

Television also came to the city in the 50's with Channel's 2, 5, and 7. Late in the decade a local public broadcasting channel also came about, largely run by and based at the University.

Radio was already well-represented in the area but really took off in the 50's with no fewer than 8 different stations in operation. Competition was fierce and some of them were allied with a TV station or a newspaper as the decade came to a close.

The Joyland amusement park opened in 1954. It quickly became a major local tourist attraction and an occasional battleground between heroes and villains as well. recreational options besides this included swimming pools, skating rinks, and drive-in movie theaters.

This is also the decade when the core of downtown was built - City Hall, Police Headquarters, the Central Fire Station, and many of the storefronts on Atomic Way date from this time. Much of the central city's infrastructure was built at this time too - roadways, sewers, power lines, rail lines, and water towers. Most of the major parks were laid out at this time too. Burns Field is also constructed, the city's first commercial airport.

Along with this development an electric trolley system is built that runs from downtown to the university and the facility, including many middle class neighborhoods. Plans are made to extend the line to the dock area but this line is never completed, leading to some resentment and bad feelings from that neighborhood. This does not appear to be serious at this time but it does plant some seeds that will come up down the road.

Major businesses that set up shop during the 50's include General Products, Axis Chemicals, and National Calculating Machines. Great Western Aircraft built an engine plant in the city to produce jet engines and was the largest single employer by 1957.

By the end of the decade Atomic City is a "working" city known mainly for advanced thinking and research and some advanced industries. The population is now 100,000, about 1/3 pre-war local families and 2/3 recent imports, making the 50's a time of major cultural change. It is often tagged nationally as "The CIty of Tomorrow" which is eventually adopted as the city's motto and painted on the sides of police cars and the downtown trolley cars. It is not a tourist destination nor is it a very large city, but it is well known and regarded as a blueprint for the future.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The 4E Greek Mythology Campaign: Classes

First a note on power sources:
  • Martial, Divine, and Arcane all fit very well as-is. I see no need for changes.
  • Primal is a little problematic with its references to the wolf spirit and the great serpent and the like. I'm really leaning towards just not allowing them for now as it's easier to add them in later than it is to remove them.  
  • Psionic is one that I was going to ban altogether but I can see it coming from a scholar/philosopher school of thought brought to a combat-worthy point. It would be centered in the most civilized parts of Achaea and would be relatively new, having been developed since the Trojan War. I can see Athena being associated with it and some of the other gods being jealous of this new power and making moves to squash it, fueling some of that divine competition that is such a part of the myths. 
Classes by Power Source

  • Fighter: The core of any good adventuring party. Sword or Spear and Shield is a popular choice for Achaeans and Achilles would be the best ever. Hercules is the greatest Brawling fighter of all time. Since I'm trimming out the primal classes the Battlerager fighter takes that role for barbaric types. The "Knight" from Essentials becomes the "Hoplite" for Achaeans and instead of sword or hammer it becomes sword or spear for the special power choices. The Essentials Slayer is also there for more barbaric types. This class might represent soldiering time or just training and natural talent, especially for the nobility.
  • Ranger: The country cousin of the fighter. Lighter armor, more mobility. Two weapon use is not strictly historical for Greeks but we can roll with it. Bow rangers fit right in. Marauder and Hunter rangers work alright as well. Beastmaster rangers are probably shepherd types from the pastoral areas - yes, in these dark times it takes a ranger to protect the sheep. 
  • Rogue: The light-armored, sneaky hard-hitting type. This might be Jason or even Theseus depending on how you interpret the stories. In any case it has a place in the campaign. The Essentials Thief fits in especially nicely here. I would think this would come from natural talent and maybe some criminal backgrounds.
  • Warlord: The fighting leader, I might nominate Odysseus as a possible Bow Warlord. Patroclus in the Iliad is the ultimate warlord, sacrificing himself to give Achilles a rage bonus to defeat Hector! All types are welcome here. I see this as mainly nobles and a few military leaders.
  • Cleric: Should play a large role in the game although I see them as mostly human in the campaign world. I would think that Melee clerics would be more common (especially for Athena and Ares) but Laser clerics have a place, especially for Apollo. Aphrodite and Demeter could have mostly Pacifist clerics. Zeus and maybe Posiedon would have a fair number of Storm Warpriests from Essentials while Apollo might also use Sun Priests from this as well. I envision these as being based out of a temple in a particular city but free to wander as needed to spread and reassert the faith, especially of a god commands it.
  • Paladin: Less common but I may use this to represent the divine-blooded fighter. While Martial types could be favored by a god, Divine types other than clerics might be directly descended from a god which would explain their unusual power. The Essentials Cavalier Paladin would be there for the Paladin player who does not want to be of divine heritage while the other Paladin types cover the godblooded fighter type.
  • Avenger: The divinely birthed stealth fighter or rogue equivalent. They can call upon the power of the gods and hit people with sharp things as well. I can see Hera, Artemis, and Aphrodite all having a fair number of these. 
  • Invoker: The godblooded origin for magical types, especially blasty magical types. They still might have gone to a school to train their powers, they just work a little differently. Zeus and Apollo might favor these, and even Hephaestus might get in on the act.
  • Runepriests: not allowed. Wait for the Norse Campaign.
  • Wizard: The learned magical scholar type fits in well in many ways. The Essentials Mage fits in here too. I see these mostly arising from cities where there would be small schools devoted to magical learning rather than solitary master-apprentice pairings.
  • Warlock: I almost want to leave these out as some of the pacts really don't fit the flavor of Mythic Greece but if we look at them as deals with minor non-divine powers then I think I can get my head around it. It's "forbidden" magic and as such this is the one that would have a master and apprentice relationship carried out in towers and ruins in the wilderness rather than learned in the cities. The Vestige pact seems especially appropriate for tapping into forgotten powers from before the rise of the Olympians. The Essentials Hexblade seems especially inappropriate for the game but I'm willing to give it a chance for now - maybe they are swordmages who went to the dark side. The Fey pact options for Warlocks might work for Wilden or Satyrs or Centaurs as tapping into the essence of nature, filling in nicely for some of the Primal classes and powers.
  • Sorcerer: These are basically another flavor of wizard in this campaign - they still would train at a school but have a slightly different focus than wizards. They represent a split in the philosophy of arcane schooling and train more for combat than the traditional scholarly wizard does. 
  •  Swordmage: The Arcane Fighter which I see as mostly a non-human profession. In fact I see it mainly as a Minotaur thing though I will not restrict it to them only. It's a fusion of martial and arcane training that should be fairly rare in the campaign world. 
  • Artificer: This one is an arcane leader type from Eberron which I have zero experience with but it really seems to fit. this class is the tinkerer, alchemist, and potion-brewer type of wizard where most of their magic is tied up in "stuff" rather than throwing fireballs. I see this as almost exclusively human, representing the dabbler/inventor/genius type of character who often goes along on heroic expeditions. Hephaestus could be widely revered among these types.
  • Bard: Certainly a fit for Heroic Greece this class is made up of wandering storytellers who form their own community within the nation. Reputations spread far and wide among bards and they will often accompany heroes on quests to gather stories for their own epic works. Bards generally do not form schools or training centers, but those who show an aptitude will often be taken under the wing of an older bard and shown the ropes. In these dark times they have learned to use their knowledge to defend themselves and their companions even though battle prowess is not their main focus.
  • Monk: this one is the most like other classes and can represent the ultimate development of the wrestling (Pankration) that was so common in ancient Greece. Some of the power names aren't really in tune with the flavor of the game so we will change them when they come up. I'm thinking this might be associated with Sparta and largely restricted to schools there. It would also be largely human but other races might have learned the techniques from a human teacher outside of the school.
  • Ardent: I envision the whole psionic power source as starting from one school in Athens where discipline and focus lead to a breakthrough and result in the psionic powers present in 4th edition. The teachings of the school slowly spread to other cities as students travel and by the time of the campaign there are schools in several cities but Athens is still the center. Ardents are the leader types who also tend to be the biggest teachers of the Way and the ones doing the most to spread its teachings to others. I see it as mainly a human thing but the school would accept students of all races who show promise so if someone wants to be a Minotaur Psyker they can do it. 
  • Battlemind: the fighting psionics, these would have come about the first time the School of the Way was asked to help repel an attack on the city. Students developed new abilities and put them into a separate training program for warriors.
  • Psion: the academics of the Way spend a lot of time philosophizing about this new power but rarely go out adventuring. Their powers tend to be less about damage and more about doing things at a distance with the mind. These are the core faculty and often the leaders of discovering new techniques within the school.

 That's where it stands right now. We will likely start with these options for class and the race options from my other post and get the game going, leaving further refinement for after we start things off. I'm going to have a little more input for this game on classes and races to try and come up with a party that makes sense. If we can work it in this weekend I will share the results next week.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The 4E Greek Mythology Campaign: What Makes it Different?

I think it's a valid question no matter what system you are using. Every RPG comes with some implied setting and fantasy RPG's come with more than most. Whether it's D&D, Runequest, or Mazes and Minotaurs most fantasy RPG play involves running around with swords and magic and fighting monsters in moderate to high amounts. What makes a Greek Mythos game different?

  1. The look and style of the game: yes in many ways it's the least important thing mechanically but since a lot of these kinds of games take place in the imagination it might be the most important difference of all. Whether it's using greek names for characters, using historical names for cities and towns, using the Olympians for the religious angle, changing up some of the equipment, or making everyone watch Clash of the Titans before the first session, there are ways to promote the different look and feel of the game that makes it feel different from a traditional medieval fantasy RPG.
  2. The monsters: Yes, there are hydras and chimeras and harpies and giant bulls and boars and scorpions but there are not huge armies of orcs and goblins, no scheming dark elves plotting in the underdark, and no fire-breathing dragons holding princesses hostage. A greater portion of the monsters running around tend to be regular animals grown to huge size or otherwise made more terrible. Others may have been mortals cursed by the gods. Others make no more sense than a lot of D&D's original creations but they have a history in the real world that runs deeper than the beholder or the flumph. Terrible opponents tend to be single mighty foes rather than hordes of lesser creatures. In old school terms the "No. Appearing" tends to be "1-4" a lot more than "40-400"
  3. What is done: There is not a lot of dungeon crawling in Greek Mythology. There is a lot of questing, by land or by sea. So we will be spending less time invading underground complexes (though there will be some of that too) and more time roaming the countryside and deposing tyrants. Jason and the Argonauts is one of the archetypal group quests and it's a major model for the game. If someone gets politically minded then there's an option to try and unify the Achaean city states or maybe just take over one of them and rule it themselves. There are a lot of options in the campaign but it's not a megadungeon game and I'm fine with that as I'm working on that separately anyway.
  4. Divine Intervention: Unlike most D&D games and unlike most other fantasy RPG's, the gods in the Greek myths make regular personal appearances to heroes. That will be the case in this game as well. Each character will likely develop a relationship with at least one god (it may be a part of character generation, still working on that angle) as all of the heroes in the myths are either descended from or favored by at least one deity. They also tend to be opposed by at least one deity and that will be fun too. Hera is a common nemesis goddess but I'd like to branch out some. 
  5. History: I've thought about setting the game in a made-up not-Greece with made up not-Olympian gods but that kind of defeats the purpose of running it. I'm using real maps of Greece with the real cities and some of the real heroes and history of the region. Now I'm also contemplating Centaurs as a playable race so it's not all about the history here but it's still different than playing in Greyhawk or the Realms or Glorantha. These are and were real places and that puts a different flavor in the game. Being a bit of an armchair historian this scratches an itch for me and sets up a lot of potential games using the same mythic history with Egypt and Rome and others down the road. 
The major concepts of this campaign are:
  • The first age of heroes ended shortly after the Trojan War which was about 100 years ago. Since then no new heroes have arisen and Achaea has fallen into a dark age with travel and trade decreasing and national unity a thing of the past. Monsters and marauders roam the countryside, making the situation even worse. This both sets up the "points of light" background for D&D and is pretty much historically accurate as far as is known.
  • The Olympians are not the only gods in the world and they did not create the world. The titans were the precursors to them, and there was a set of godlike beings prior to them that the titans fought in ages past. This sets up some mysterious history ad lets me use the titans as sources of information about these older powers so that they are more than just enemies. Some of the pre-Olympian gods historically are earth deities and are referred to as Cthonic gods - I'm thinking of making them literally Cthonic gods which allows me to drop mindflayers and other tentacled things in if I feel inclined to do so. I think "Brain-Eaters" sounds a little more exciting than "Lotus Eaters" for a D&D game. 
  • Worship of the gods has decreased as civilization has crumbled. Various lesser powers such as demon princes have started to creep in through the cracks and secret cults have sprung up here and there. The gods are ready to expand their influence again and stamp out these others, and they are ready to choose new heroes to do it. 
The divine element means that there will probably be an extra conversation with each player about what power they would like to be associated with at the start of the campaign. that's OK, that's one of the reasons we're playing this one, to make it a little different from standard D&D.

So how will the campaign start? I will start it off in central Greece near one of the major cities and give the party several rumors to investigate. Among them will be some abandoned shrines, some ruined settlements, and perhaps a frog-demon cult that needs to be dealt with. I plan to use Bullywugs as the opponent in this as they are both nicely diverse in 4E with multiple types and a good low level race I have not already used which is refreshing to both the players and the DM after months of kobolds and goblins. I know frog demons aren't exactly historical Greek but when it comes to low-level monsters I want something that's not one of those common D&D starter horde creatures and these fit the bill pretty well.  I am open to other ideas if anyone wants to chime in.

So it is Greek-flavored and Greek-centric but it is not strictly Greek-only content. I will deliberately keep out certain races and creatures that shift it more towards a medieval flavor (Elves, Dwarves, Crossbows, fire-breathing dragons sitting on gold hoards, Knights, Fey creatures and races) but things that are not tied to a certain historical period might be included. This could be things like Beholders, Undead, traditional D&D style arcane magic, and frog-people.

Anyway that's my rundown of why I would run this game. If it isn't any different then there's really no point to doing it. So hopefully I will do it right enough that the players will have a good time with it. We will see.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The 4E Greek Mythology Campaign: The Races

As I work through the setup phase of running a Heroic Age Greece campaign my opinions on things change and I thought I would share some of the details here.

For power sources I am rethinking my earlier "unlockable" approach. I am not sure I want to mix in Norse and Egyptian as their own sections within the campaign including deities and the like. For one it dilutes the focus of the game on Greek Mythology and really becomes the "Popular Mythology" campaign instead. Additionally the timelines really do not match up historically  - not a primary consideration but one that nags at me a little bit. Finally the ideal in a long-running campaign is to have the same characters running through it, and if I open up the Primal power source at paragon then some players may want to switch characters in the middle of the game. I think I would rather focus this campaign on Greece then run another one (maybe next year) focusing on the Norse. Ancient Egypt will be present in the Greek game in a limited way but will not be the focus of the campaign over any long stretch.

Races, particularly player character races, are a big factor in the feel of a campaign world so I would like to get this right the first time. Here's where I stand right now:

Pretty solid:

  • Achaeans (Humans) - the mechanical flexibility of humans in 4E is a perfect representation of the Hellenes and how they viewed themselves. It also caters to the wide variety of character types in the mythology - the strong hero, the smart hero, the skilled hero  - all of these are do-able within the framework of human. This is the primary race of the campaign.

  • Minotaurs - I think they fit in this campaign better than in most standard D&D games. The island of Crete is their kingdom (Kingdom of Minos is the tentative name )and is considered a nation almost as civilized as the Achaeans themselves. They have a small population but they are feared physical combatants and are no slouch when it comes to magic either. The current king helped overthrow an ancient demon-worshipping cult that ruled the island for centuries and one of the themes a minotaur player can tap into is the hunt for the surviving priests and cultists who have now scattered across the world. This also conveniently explains the existence of wild bloodthirsty minotaurs in different parts of the world - they are too much of an iconic monster to lose. It also lets me add in demon worshipping cultists with an interesting twist.

  • Automatons (Warforged) - this is a new one for me as we do not use Eberron at all. The more I thought about it though, the more I liked the idea as a nod to everything from Talos to the minoton* to the works of Daedalus, and for giving Hephaestus a more active role in the world. I really like the idea of the man of bronze out adventuring and trying to fit into Achaean society. I might leave it up to each player to come up with an origin story but I may also have one built into the background, something like the Legion of Bronze - 1000 men of bronze created by Hephaestus to fight in some war against an otherworldly threat. Afterwards, he set them free to make their way in the world. It's not totally nailed down yet but it's a start. I would also assume that certain legendary inventors (like Daedalus) would have the ability to craft free-willed automatons but these would be fewer in number.

  • Nature Spirits (Wilden) - another race we haven't used but that seem to fit. These beings in default represent awakened nature are are somewhat plant-like. This would take the role of the dryad or nymph-like being that accompanies a party of heroes and eventually becomes one themselves.  

  • Thracian (Half-Orc) the Thracians live to the northeast of Greece and are a race of barbaric clans who spend a lot of time fighting amongst themselves and are totally non-Greek. When I first read through their history and customs they made me think of some depictions of orcs. There's some evidence that they are linked to the god Ares (in the Greek minds anyway) which fits right in where I want them to be. I'm thinking that they fulfill the role of barbaric human outsiders and the half-orc mechanical bits fit this to a T, favoring strength, dexterity, endurance, intimidate and a racial power called "Furious Assault".
Still thinking:
  • Cyclops (Goliath) -  This is mainly a cosmetic change - you're playing a one-eyed goliath.  I'm thinking they are the "country" cyclops who live up in the mountains of central Greece raising sheep and having occasional clan wars and don't interact much with the Achaeans as a nation or a race. They are known to the locals and mostly get along with them just fine, having no ambitions to conquest or bloodshed. Sometimes though one gets an itch and comes down out of the mountains and ends up in a heroic band going halfway across the world on some quest for the gods.   
  • Aegyptian (Deva) - I'm thinking of making them the nobility of Egypt as their theme in regular D&D is continuously reincarnated immortals and their skills and stats and power all back this up. Even if I go this way I'm still not sure I want them available as a starting race since the focus is on Greek Mythology, not Egyptian. I might make it an option if the party ends up in that area and loses a PC. Replacing it with a local would make some sense then.
  • Satyr (Gnome) - With all of the big bruiser races I'm looking at it would be nice to have a small race in the mix too. I want a race to represent the more animalistic nature spirit types so reskinning a gnome as a satyr might work, though the size thing doesn't totally fit unless we're basing it off of Phil from Disney's Hercules which is not totally out of the question. In mechanical terms they are good at sneaking and trickery which could fit but I am not totally sure just yet. 
  • Centaur (Shifter) - These are an interesting problem. I'm going to keep them to Medium size (Hey if an 8' Goliath or Minotaur can be considered "Medium" then so can these) but there are so many ways one can go to mechanically enhance the idea of  "Centaur" as some were wild barbarians while others were wise teachers and healers. Shifters as a race have two different mechanical options: one favors Strength, Wisdom, Athletics, and Endurance and adds a minor regeneration ability. The other favors Dexterity, Wisdom, Acrobatics**, and Stealth and adds speed and better defenses. I think this works as the first reflects the more brutish style of centaur while the other covers the speedy archer-centaur, and either can be played as wise or just strong-willed and rash. I could go one is male and one is female but I don;t want to limit things in that way for now.
To me these really fit the theme but it's pushing the bar. At some point I could end up with a party effectively consisting of a mutant animal, a robot, a one-eyed mutant, and a pure human and it looks more like a game of Gamma World than a game of Greek Mythology. Hmmm ... you know Greek Mythology looks kind of like a game of Gamma World anyway with all the half-this and multi-headed-that type creatures running around. Maybe I'm on to something here.

The "out" list
  • Dragonborn - no. They might turn up as the rulers of Atlantis or South America along with traditional dragons but they are not one of the starting races of the game. 
  • Dwarfs - no. Wait for the Norse Mythology campaign and we'll have all kinds of dwarfs there.
  • Eladrin - Actually these might be the Atlanteans - they are flavored as the highly magical, extra-skilled race . So they might make an appearance later but they won't be a playable race, they'll be more like Melniboneans than high elves.
  • Elf - no. Wait for the Norse campaign
  • Halfling - I'm tempted to put them in as natives from one of the islands in the Aegean Sea but I think it helps the flavor of the game if they aren't included and I don't have a good solid place for them.
  • Tieflings -the rulers of the Hittite Empire (Turkey) so they will be opponents (potentially) in the campaign. Not a player race for this one.
  • Githzerai - no. I don't see a place for them in the campaign. Wait for Plane Trek.
  • Shardminds - no. Wait for Plane Trek.
  • Drow -no. Wait for the Norse campaign
  • Changelings - no. Not in this game.
  • Mul - no.
  • Thri-Kreen - no. There are enough non-human options already. Wait for Plane Trek.
If we started playing today I would probably stash the Devas away for later and take the rest. That would give me 8 starting races including 2 versions of "human" and that's pretty good. Adding in all of the non-human races does mean that certain compromises have to be made with Greek history and myths and I will talk more about those in my next post.

*Yeah I know that one's from Sinbad but it's another Harryhausen movie and he would have fit into a Greek movie better anyway. I think Eye of the Tiger would be a cool outline for a D&D game.

** Let's think of this as "leaping over stuff gracefully" and not "tumbling with somersaults and cartwheels"

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Return to the Ruins of Adventure - Session 18: Legend of the Ogre King

Safely back in Phlan the party ponders what to do next. After some debate they decide to follow up on the orcish map they found. To do this they must navigate through the ruins to a black rock noted on the map. Uthal guides the group through this overgrown section of what might once have been a park area and finds the black rock. Jovanni speaks the words that will open a secret door (again according to the map) and Kordan's Sunblade provides maximum illumination as they explore.

Our heroes:

  • Althea, 5th level eladrin thunderwaving wizard
  • Mikal, 5th level human infernal pact cursing warlock
  • Kordan, 5th level human sunsword-and-board fighter
  • Jovanni, 5th level half-elven good-looking bard
  • Uthal, 5th level goliath great-spear-wielding barbarian

Inside they find stairs cut out of the stone descending into the earth. they gradually smooth out into a long sloping passageway. Eventually they emerge in a natural cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites though a path has been cleared through them leading to an exit on the other side. Jovanni starts to enter but Kordan throws an arm across his path - "Wait."

By the light of the sunblade a carrion crawler is revealed in the center of the room, curled up near a rocky outcropping. As it stirs, sensing the light, the group begins shooting and blasting the creature before it can attack, dispatching the innocent worm in short order (and seemingly annoying the DM by doing so).

But the universe (and the DM) will have their revenge! As the party begins to cross the cavern Althea is grabbed by unseen hands! As she struggles in the grip, several smallish humanoid creatures are spotted lurking around the edges of the room, attacking with unnaturally long arms and an incredible grip. As the chokers strike a serious combat opens up with various members of the party being grabbed and choked in turn as other members free them only to be grabbed in turn. After a vicious fight, the heroes emerged intact, a little battered but otherwise OK. After taking a few minutes to recover they continue on down the passage.

Descending ever-deeper into the earth the group realizes that they are far beneath the city, below even the sewers and ruins that create a dark underworld that most creatures avoid. The air is cool and it is very quiet save for the noises the party itself makes in travel. The group discusses what the priests of Torm might have been sensing when they felt a portal to the Shadowfell open, and how it might be tied to the legend of the ogre king.

Time passes and they see light ahead. Approaching they see a rectangular room of worked stone covered in colorful painted murals and illuminated by everburning lamps built into the walls. Inside the room are 3 big ogre skeletons and some orc skeletons. All appear to be propped against the walls of the room, and one of the big ones is propped in front of a set of bronze doors opposite the entrance. Suspicious, someone fires an arrow at the bony doorstop and it lurches into action - this must be the place!

The big ogre skeleton strides forth and slams into Kordan. A swirling melee develops around the entrance to the room where the orc skeletons form a front rank while the ogre skeletons fight over them using their long reach. Althea fireballs the group while Mikal adds his own flaming conflagration to the fight and Uthal starts stabbing skeletons. Another Thunderwave from the wizard pushes the fight back into the room, allowing the party to wedge their way in and Kordan slashes into the bone guardians using his radiant sunblade, death to the undead. Soon enough the sentinels are shattered bone fragments littering the floor and the heroes begin examining the room and the door.

The room is frescoed with all manner of scenes from the Ogre King's reign. Scenes of massed orcs and ogres fighting against giants and other tribes of creatures lead to scenes of their leaders kneeling before the king. Scenes of building and fortification lead to scenes of prosperity and wealth. Another wall however shows the king's armies in battle once again, this time against strange tentacled creatures. In successive scenes the tentacled ones grow in numbers as the king's armies are driven back,a and these scenes flow towards the great bronze doors in the room. The relief on these doors show the gates to the king's city. What lies beyond?

The team opens the doors and beyond they see another room decorated with red and black stripes and  hieroglyphics, apparently an ancient form of giantish. There is a crack in the floor though with a cold wind coming out of it, and strange voices can be heard whispering almost-words in it, but it's not a language anyone can identify. The party avoids it, not sure what it is.

Moving around the room several of the heroes begin reading the glyphs, discovering that the ogre king turned to another god or power for aid in his fight. The outsiders were too powerful for the ogre god so he needed the help of another power and performed a great ceremony to make his people safe, sacrificing himself in the process.

Some other party members begin examining the door they find across the room, checking for traps. That's when several ogres and orcs in ancient styled armor begin fading into view within the room. They suddenly take on solid form,look around, spot the party and shout "Achuka!" - giantish for "attack!"

DM Notes: I really got into the background of this little delve adventure and expanded it way beyond what it originally was. I've also added quite a bit more background to tie it into the world and the region and to hopefully set up some things for later in the players' minds. 

Structurally between deciding what to do next and getting back on track after the side adventure and with just a slower exploratory pace we only got through two encounters this session. I'd like to get that up to 3 but it's challenging. One of the good things about 4E is that every fight has the potential to be interesting, with lots of maneuvering and group tactics, but that comes at the cost of time. It also means there are few quick skirmishes. Here the first fight took 8 rounds, but some of that was the party shooting at the poor crawler as it tried to engage, so it went fairly quickly. The skeleton fight was only 4 rounds but it was just as dramatic with mighty blows exchanged and spells going off right from round one. I'd like to get through that 3rd encounter but we will have to see how things flow.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Stretched Metaphors - D&D Editions

This occurred to me late one night and I decided to share it, for what it's worth.

  • Original D&D is like the cool underground black and white comic that spawns an empire, like TMNT
  • Basic D&D is the cartoon based off of that comic and is how most people are introduced - a cool after-school cartoon like Transformers or GI Joe that gets people interested in finding out what else is out there. (Expert is the second season where it gets really good, Companion is where it starts to get weak, and Masters/Immortals is the Japanese version that bears almost no resemblance to the original other than some names) 
  • AD&D 1E is the mainstream Marvel version of the comic - bigger and bolder and now in color but some still think it was better when it was an indie thing
  • AD&D 2E is the live-action TV show that's a little cheesy and is revised to be more family-friendly (no more demons and the half-orc assassin gets replaced by a female character or a robot or something.)
  • AD&D 3E is the 20-years-later-cool-re-imagining of the original show, like SciFi's Battlestar Galactica (It also falls apart in the end game, just like SciFi's BSG) and some of the original participants hate it at first, then get on board, fueling a sort of renaissance.
  • AD&D 4E is The Movie, specifically The Action Movie. If the series had one big stunt or special effect per episode then The Movie has a big one in every scene. It uses a different cast, a different backstory, and a different special effects house. The differences spark an uproar among the fans and a schism too.
Discuss, Rip, or Ignore - that's sort of how they all sort out in my head.

Motivational Monday